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South Bend School Corp. hosts restorative justice session for school leaders, community members

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- South Bend School Corporation is looking to change the way discipline is viewed in schools with implementing restorative justice techniques.

Closing the achievement gap and school to prison pipeline is an issue the corporation has been working on for a while. In 2017, Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Spells said it would take the parents, community members, teachers, principals, and the whole city to address this.

“It’s really important to find alternatives to suspensions out of school,” said Tiana Baptiste-Waddell, principal at Jackson Intermediate Center.

She and Carmen Williams, who is the principal at Jefferson Intermediate Center, said they been using restorative justice practices for many school years. Williams said the practices implemented have improved communication between a majority-minority student population and majority white teaching staff.

While Baptiste-Waddell said at her school restorative justice has lowered in-and-out of school suspension rates and overall bad behavior.

“We did not have fighting as much as we had in the past,” Baptiste-Waddell said. “But kids were really reaching out to try and find alternative ways to handle the conflict in which they were experiencing.”

Kathe Streeter, who is an SBCSC Restorative Justice Building Coordinator at Jefferson Intermediate Center, said traditionally, in most schools in the U.S., administrators have been quick to punish, but not quick to ask what the root of the problem is.

On Thursday, SBCSC leaders, teachers, and community members met at Jackson Intermediate Center to learn more about restorative justice. Some of the words they used to describe they’re hopes once implemented in every school were “patience,” “persistence,” accountability,” and “trust.”

Streeter said parents can ask their student’s teacher about circle groups, which can bring educators, parents, students, and the community to an equal space for conversation.

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